Number 2 in a 5 Blog Series
Very few things in your practice are as frustrating as someone who doesn’t show up for their appointment or cancels at the last moment. You’ve already prepped, reviewed the file, scheduled staff, and then suddenly - you’re standing there without a patient to see. There are any number of reasons a patient becomes a no-show. Over the course of the next few blogs, we will look at specific reasons patients become a no-show and identify steps that you can take to prevent this from happening.
Fear and Lack of Information
In our first blog, we examined the role of finances as a contributing issue in no-shows. Next, we will look at the role of fear and anxiety.
Healthcare exams of any kind can be intimidating for some patients, even frightening for others. The sterile atmosphere and not knowing what to expect can make certain patients uncomfortable enough that they will procrastinate or no-show for annual exams or follow-up appointments.
Some patients become a no-show because they fear getting bad news, while others worry about being lectured for putting off procedures or not following their provider’s advice. As patients age, procedures such as colonoscopies, stress tests, glaucoma screening, or tooth extraction become a realistic concern for them and something over which they may feel moderate to severe anxiety.
Many providers who are frustrated with no-shows may be tempted to dismiss such concerns as unwarranted or unreasonable, but to the patient, they are very real and reasonable indeed. Being dismissive of a patient’s fears will likely lead to that patient seeking treatment from another provider. So how do you approach a patient whose anxiety is causing their no-show behavior?
The key to relieving most healthcare-related fears is information and education. Most fear is a result of facing the unknown. Patients who don’t feel that they know what to expect may choose to avoid the unknown and either cancel their appointment at the last minute or simply no-show at your office.
The first step to reassuring these patients is in your hands. Rather than lecturing patients, try to understand their fears. A bit of understanding and empathy can go a long way toward calming those fears and preventing a no-show situation. The independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago found that a care provider’s manner was a leading factor in that patient’s assessment of the quality of their care. Listening, attentiveness, and an attitude of caring and concern were among the most important aspects when evaluating good care.
Providing patients with information that is not only adequate to their understanding, but also designed to address their level of understanding, can also reduce fear and minimize the risk of no-shows. If English is not your patient’s first language, be sure you are giving him or her access to materials designed for their comprehension and they you are ensuring they understand. Rather than asking a patient if he or she understands, ask the patient to explain it to you so you can gauge their level of comprehension. You can use a patient portal to send HIPAA-secure information to patients as well as make a library of information available to the patient at their convenience.
Patients will often provide clues as to the kind of attention they need. Some will ask nearly endless questions, while others will change the subject and look to be distracted. Some patients want as much information in advance, and others will wait until the last moment to hear the details. The critical element is you and your ability to adapt to each patient’s particular style.
By addressing patients’ fears and providing compassionate care, along with meaningful information, your patients will gain trust and confidence in your abilities. This, in turn, reduces the likelihood of a patient becoming a no-show at your practice.
For more information on reducing no-shows, click here!